Picks and Pans Review: Girl with a Pearl Earring

updated 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

Scarlett Johansson, Colin Firth

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One should strive to hand out praise whenever possible. Hewing to that dictum, let me say that Girl with a Pearl Earring is easily the most beautiful-looking movie ever shot in Luxembourg, though it moves at a pace akin to watching a painting dry.

Tiny Luxembourg serves as the primary stand-in for The Netherlands in the 17th century, the setting for this decidedly decorous adaptation of author Tracy Chevalier's popular 1999 novel of the same name. Like the book, the film speculates on the intense, but chaste, relationship between married artist Johannes Vermeer (Firth) and Grief (Johansson), the teenage servant who posed for the titular painting. Artist and model bond discussing light and color, but conventions of class and custom keep them apart. Johansson (Lost in Translation) gleams quietly, while Firth seems lost beneath an unflattering, long strawlike wig. (PG-13)

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